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A full four weeks after the nominees were announced, the ballots for this year's Academy Awards have finally gone out to voting members-- which means we can finally stop speculating about what might happen and start looking forward to what will. A lot has happened in the meantime, and most of it has been about Ben Affleck winning various awards, but it doesn't take much to change the temperature of an Oscar race. And while we're still a solid few weeks away from the February 24 Oscar ceremony, it's a good time to take stock of what's happened in the six major races, and what we might be able to expect come Oscar night.
Is Ben Affleck's surge of attention going to last? Can the crazy Best Supporting Actor category yield some real surprises? Can anyone beat Daniel Day-Lewis? All of those questions and more answered in this quick Oscar Eye update, as we gear up for what I promise will be a very, very large amount of awards season chatter in the next few weeks.
BEST PICTURE: The Argo surge abides. From the moment Ben Affleck was a surprise omission from the Best Director category to the moment he won the Directors Guild Award, nobody has talked about anything in the Best Picture race but Argo. Lincoln remains a huge hit and massively respected, and Silver Linings Playbook is slowly sneaking its way to $100 million at the box office, but that's nothing compared to the enormous surge of "Argo will win Best Picture!" attention. Now the question is whether that actually comes true. There was just enough time between the announcement of the nominations and today for people to get a little sick of the Argo resurgence meme, and it's possible they'll revert back to what everyone figured was going to win Best Picture back in December, Lincoln. It's an incredibly petty thing, for the idea that Affleck has "won too much" to cost Argo Best Picture, but that's how this game is played more often than not.
Our Bet: Argo hangs in there and wins it all. But it's gonna be a tight one
BEST DIRECTOR: The Affleck vacuum. Oscar watchers are practically giddy with this year's bizarre turn of events, as Affleck wins directing prize after another without even being nominated for the Oscar. And as Argo has taken all the attention away from the other Best Picture nominees, the Best Director category has gotten even more silent. Some logic says that Steven Spielberg is the obvious person to step in, given Lincoln's immense popularity. Others say that Ang Lee, with just one previous win and the enormous technical achievement of Life of Pi, could be the next in line. Pretty much no one sees it happening for David O. Russell, Michael Haneke or Benh Zeitlin, but in a situation this weird, I think I'm rooting for a shakeup most of all.
Our Bet: Steven Spielberg, on the power of Lincoln and his own legacy, still seems like the clear winner to me.
BEST ACTRESS: One ingenue to rule them all? As the hubbub around Zero Dark Thirty's torture has died down, it took with it the momentum for Jessica Chastain, whose performance as Maya once looked like the film's best shot at an award. Now nearly all the buzz belongs to Jennifer Lawrence, but it's a curiously hollow kind of buzz-- do people really love Silver Linings Playbook and her enough to hand her this meaty prize? A strong number of the smart folks at Gurus of Gold are giving a strong edge to Amour's Emmanuelle Riva, who gives a flawless performance-- albeit in a movie, Amour, that very few have seen. Can a small foreign performance like that really step up and take over?
Our Bet: Lawrence takes it. The cards have lined up for her too perfectly, and Oscar sure does love its up-and-coming Best Actresses.
BEST ACTOR: Clothed in immense power. Daniel Day-Lewis is going to win this. No one has really questioned it for months, as much as Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman may have their supporters. It's pretty hard to argue with this win.
Our Bet: Daniel Day-Lewis dominates the way Lincoln dominated those young telegraph operators.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: No one is killing the dream she's dreamed. Anne Hathaway has been number one with a bullet in this category from the moment she was cast in Les Miserables, and in an exceptionally weak field of Best Supporting Actress competition, nothing has really happened to change that. Her biggest threat remains Sally Field, though it's hard to take that too seriously as a contest given the general loss of heat around Lincoln. At this point I'm already looking forward to Hathaway's flustered but somehow intimidating acceptance speech.
Our Bet: Anne has taken Oscar season in her stride, and it's staying there.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: ????? Oh boy. From the moment we knew this would be a category consisting entirely of previous winners-- the first time that has ever happened in Academy history-- we knew this would be a doozy. At the moment Tommy Lee Jones still appears to have an edge, having won SAG Award and most critics prizes, but there's plenty of chatter suggesting that can't last. Can an enthusiasm for Robert DeNiro's late career-- something we've usually just mourned?-- help him take this? Can the Argo surge sweep Alan Arkin up along with it? If Philip Seymour Hoffman got in there with a film that seemed so polarizing, could that give him an edge? And hey, Christoph Waltz won the Golden Globe! Honestly, I think most of that talk is just a way to have a conversation in an Oscar race that has dragged on forever.
Our Bet: Tommy Lee Jones might not be the most exciting winner, but he deserves it and he'll get it.